Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. David Routt
Dr. Woody Holton
In 1579, a court in Essex, England arraigned thirteen-year-old Thomas Lever for acting as an assistant to William Randall, a conjurer suspected of leading a group of male witches. The court claimed young Thomas “mixed potions and was familiar with all [of Randall’s] workings.”1 Yet for Raphael Holinshed, the commentator on the trial, the case was unique only in the age of the defendant. Holinshed gives a stark example of a common view of the witch trials by noting “That her Majesty is sore oppressed by these witches and devil- mongers is now common knowledge, but that a child should be in such company is a singular and amazing thing.”2 By analyzing Holinshed’s commentary on the trial, rather than age or gender of the defendant, historians can discover the nuances of witchcraft belief. He both affirms a common belief in witchcraft, its prevalence and its danger, and expresses skepticism about a particular defendant. Witch trials contained elements of both common belief and individual detail and history.
Boone, Elizabeth Kiel, "Changing magic : evolving conception of witchcraft in Essex County" (2010). Honors Theses. 170.